Sixth Sense Serving
I serve at a local benevolent ministry. I work with the people who come there needing food, clothing, help with their rent or utility bills, and so forth to get their information regarding their needs and their resources. Yesterday I worked with a homeless man who asked for food. It was his first time coming to the ministry. It was a pleasant experience.
The homeless man is not my focus here, but the woman who brought him to the ministry to get help. The unnamed woman met the man who stays outdoors near where she lives. When she learned he was homeless and that everything he had was stolen from him, she brought him to our ministry for help. I spoke to her briefly and thanked her for bringing him to us.
This is a case of what I call Sixth Sense Serving—unplanned, unselfish, compassionate response to a clear need. The man was not a member of her family nor in her circle of friends. He was simply a man in need of help. She did not say to herself “Someone needs to help this man who has nothing, not even food to eat.” She put him in her car and drove him to our ministry and he received the help he needed including food for several days and references to where he might find a job and other services for his homelessness.
Not many people do sixth sense serving. Most of us do response serving or routine serving. Response serving is the serving we do when a disaster occurs, we hear about sudden, usually heart-rending loss or suffering, and we get involved to help. Unfortunately, more often than not, our help is in the form is a check. Some look for ways to be involved in a hands-on way which is far better than a check!
Response serving is when our church announces a service “project” and asks us to help out. We respond either because we want the church’s effort to be successful or because we know it will make us feel good to know we are helping people in need but once the project is finished, we get back to the routines of life.
Routine serving is volunteering at a non-profit like what I do twice a month at the ministry where I serve. It is planned and put on the calendar. It is a commitment. All of this is good. Such serving keeps us engaged regularly. It keeps us in touch with people in need and that is always a good thing, but it is not sixth sense serving.
How can serving be a sixth sense?
We have five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. These are built-in abilities to be in touch with our surroundings. They enable us to survive and thrive. They enrich life immeasurably. God has blessed us with these senses. They work every day of our life without us having to do anything to make them work. We take them for granted (as we do most God given gifts). Without our senses, life would be poorer, less safe, and less enjoyable than it is.
It is the instinctive aspect of the senses that leads me to call serving spontaneously and compassionately sixth sense serving. Sixth sense serving is the continual alertness to the needs of others and the humility and compassion to respond to those needs. Sixth sense serving makes the question “What can I do to help?” a daily mantra.
Sixth sense serving is not only the ability and willingness to see others’ needs but also the compassion to respond. In my book Compassionaries: Unleash the Power of Serving I identify humility, seeing needs and compassion as traits of compassionaries. They are the characteristics of people who serve others effectively. Together they comprise a sixth sense for serving. They work like the other senses—instinctively, constantly, reliably—to help us be more responsive to the needs of everyone around us.
What if . . . ?
What if everyone on the street where you live had a sixth sense that led them to notice human needs and respond compassionately? How different would your neighborhood be? What if everyone in your town/city had a sixth sense for serving? What difference would that make in how many homeless people existed in your town? Hungry? Lonely? Addicted? Abused?
Let me be clear. I am not criticizing occasional serving, i.e., response or routine serving. Not at all. Every occasion of authentic serving people in need is valued and helpful.
That said, I dream of a time when serving others is second nature for more people, when the mantra “How can I help?” is like the air we breathe, when we have six senses and the sixth is just as empowering as the other five.
Don’t wait for your church to plan a service project to serve. Don’t wait for your civic club to arrange for a day of service or for a disaster to prompt you to engage in serving others. Pay attention to the people around you and listen to your sixth sense.
What do you think?
Have you had an experience of sixth sense serving? Tell me about it. I love to hear those stories. Whom did you serve? What led you to act when it wasn’t expected?